Fashion Ethics

July 23, 2018 | Karen

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Toronto Public Library has an array of resources on the subject of fashion, including books on fashion and fashion designers, fashion drawing, photography, magazines and more. But a full picture of fashion includes acknowledging the negative aspects of the industry, such as health and safety risks and human rights abuses of workers, child exploitation, environmental degradation including textile waste, and animal cruelty.  After the 2013  collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, a horrific tragedy killing over 1100 garment workers, mostly women and children, the world began to pay more attention to how  industry manufacturing practices affect garment workers, communities and the environment. It seems we are seeing a deeper cultural shift with regard to concern about the social and environmental costs of the products we use.  The library has many resources to help navigate these complex issues.

Slave to Fashion

Slave to Fashion: "Interviews and microdocumentaries with the men, women and children caught in slavery, making the clothes sold on our high streets in Europe and the developing world. It also profiles best practice of brands and designers within the fashion industry to prove that slave-free fashion is achievable and fashion can be used to empower workers."


Before their time the world of child labor

Before their Time: the World of Child Labor. "Physician and photographer David L. Parker takes us beyond the headlines and into the textile factories, stone quarries, and garbage dumps where children are forced--by unscrupulous adults or by lack of any other economic opportunity--into the desperate cycle of child labor. His haunting and sensitive portrayal of these children preserves their dignity and humanity while exposing their often tragic circumstances.


 Clothed in Integrity

Clothed in Integrity: weaving Just Cultural Relations and the Garment Industry. "Barbara Paleczny, herself a daughter of garment workers, tugs at the threads of homeworking in the garment industry to reveal a low-wage strategy that rends the fabric of social integrity and exposes global trends. The resurgence of sweatshops affects the working poor in both first- and third-world countries. Paleczny assesses the responsibility of transnational retailers for unacceptable wages and working conditions and describes historic shifts in the global context of garment production."

Fugitive Denim a moving Storyof people and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade

Fugitive Denim: a moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade. "In the business of making and selling clothes, "Made in" labels do precious little to convey the constellation of treaties, countries, and people at work in the assembly of a simple pair of jeans. In Fugitive Denim journalist Rachel Louise Snyder reports from the far reaches of this multi-billion-dollar industry in search of the real people who make your clothes. From a cotton picker in Azerbaijan to a Cambodian seamstress, a denim maker in Italy to a fashion designer in New York, Snyder captures the human, environmental, and political forces at work in a dizzyingly complex and often absurd world. In a disarming and humorous voice, she ponders questions of equity, sweatshops, and corporate social responsibility through narratives of individual people, making an often academic subject accessible and compelling."Out of Poverty Sweatshops in the Global EconomyOut of Poverty: Sweatshops in the Global Economy. "This book provides a comprehensive defense of third-world sweatshops. It explains how these sweatshops provide the best available opportunity to workers and how they play an important role in the process of development that eventually leads to better wages and working conditions. Using economic theory, the author argues that much of what the anti-sweatshop movement has agitated for would actually harm the very workers they intend to help by creating less desirable alternatives and undermining the process of development. Nowhere does this book put "profits" or "economic efficiency" above people. Improving the welfare of poorer citizens of third world countries is the goal, and the book explores which methods best achieve that goal. Out of Poverty will help readers understand how activists and policy makers can help third world workers."

Sweatshop Warriors Immigrant Women Workers take on the Global Factory

Sweatshop Warriors : Immigrant Women Workers take on the Global Factory. "Summarizing the histories of Chinese, Mexican, and Korean immigration, Sweatshop Warriors examines the practices and policies that propel women, men, and children into dangerous and poorly paid jobs."

Slaves to Fashion  Poverty and Abuse in the New Sweatshops

Slaves to Fashion : Poverty and Abuse in the New Sweatshops. "Just as Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed uncovered the plight of the working poor in America, Robert J. S. Ross's Slaves to Fashion exposes the dark side of the apparel industry and its exploited workers at home and abroad. It's both a lesson in American business history and a warning about one of the most important issues facing the global capital economy-the reappearance of the sweatshop. Vividly detailing the decline and tragic rebirth of sweatshop conditions in the American apparel industry of the twentieth century, Ross explains the new sweatshops as a product of unregulated global capitalism and associated deregulation, union erosion, and exploitation of undocumented workers. Using historical material and economic and social data, the author shows that after a brief thirty-five years of fair practices, the U.S. apparel business has once again sunk to shameful abuse and exploitation."
The environmental impact of fashion should concern us all.  Water consumption alone is unsustainable.  According to a World Wildlife Fund Report, it can take up to 2700 liters of water to make a single t-shirt.  
As well, toxic chemical use, toxic waste, and textile waste result in the fashion industry being one of the primary polluters in the world. Here are some books which not only speak to the industry's role in pollution, but also suggest alternative strategies for change.

Sustainable Fashion Handbook

The Sustainable Fashion Handbook. "This sourcebook on all aspects of sustainable fashion encompasses not only the environmental issues presented by a wasteful and fast-moving fashion cycle but also the social impact of the global fashion industry, which employs up to forty million people worldwide in manufacturing and agriculture. Sandy Black has assembled contributions from a diverse group with a range of perspectives: designers and technicians, academics and journalists, environmental and social action campaigners, craft specialists and artists, eco-entrepreneurs and representatives of global corporations. Each chapter presents essays by leading writers and thinkers; interviews and statements from designers such as Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, and Hussein Chalayan; and case studies on everything from the life cycle of jeans to smart textiles and fair trade projects."
To Die For
To Die For : is Fashion wearing out the World? "An expose on the fashion industry written by the Observer's 'Ethical Living' columnist, examining the inhumane and environmentally devastating story behind the clothes we so casually buy and wear. Coming at a time when the global financial crisis and contracting of consumer spending is ushering in a new epoch for the fashion industry, To Die For offers a very plausible vision of how green could really be the new black."
The Beautiful and the Good  Reasons for Sustainable Fashion
The Beautiful and the Good: Reasons for Sustainable Fashion.  "Will eco-friendly fashion dress the future? Can fashion be sustainable? Sustainability is a challenge that cannot be ignored today. Sustainable fashion reassesses the material and manufacturing components without renouncing the aesthetic and symbolic. The Beautiful and the Good highlights—with the aid of case histories—how we are going through a profound and necessary change of paradigm in the culture of consumption."
  The Dirty Side of the Garment Industry
The Dirty Side of the Garment industry : Fast Fashion and its Negative Impact on Environment and Society. "When thinking about lowering or changing consumption to lower carbon footprints, the obvious offenders come easily to mind: petroleum and petroleum products, paper and plastic, even food. But not clothes. Although the clothing industry is the second largest polluter after agriculture, most consumers do not think of clothes as a source of environmental damage. The Dirty Side of the Garment Industry: Fast Fashion and its Negative Impact on Environment and Society exposes how clever marketing tactics designed to increase demand skillfully hide this reality."
Zero Waste Fashion Design: "Approximately 15% of the fabric used to make the average garment does not end up in the garment. Instead it is left behind as off-cut waste. In light of the billions of garments  globally produced  each year, this amounts to a considerable mountain of textile waste. Zero Waste Fashion Design is an approach that eliminates this waste."
  Sustainable Fashion and Textiles
Fashion Fibers : Designing for Sustainability. " An accessible reference tool for fashion students and designers who want to learn how to make decisions to enhance the sustainability potential in common fibers used in the fashion industry.Each chapter investigates six main areas of potential impact in fiber cultivation, production, and processing-including chemical use, water, fair labor, energy use, consumer use/washing and biodegradability and recyclability. Readers will learn about the sustainability benefits and environmental impacts at each stage of the lifecycle, optimizing sustainability benefits, availability, product applications, and marketing and innovation opportunities that lead to more sustainable fashion."
Sustainable fashion
Sustainable Fashion : Past, Present, and Future: "Sustainable Fashion provides a unique and accessible overview of fashion ethics and sustainability issues of the past, present and future. This book is the first to situate today's eco-fashion movement in its multifaceted historical context and explore the historical relationship between fashion and the environment as far back as the early nineteenth century. Employing an expanded definition of sustainability that also considers ethical issues, Farley and Hill explore each stage of the fashion production cycle, from the cultivation of raw fibers to the shipment of the finished garment. Structured thematically, each of the six chapters is dedicated to the discussion of one major issue, from recycling and repurposing to labour practices and the treatment of animals. Including interviews with eco-fashion designers, Sustainable Fashion will appeal to students and scholars of fashion, as well as students of design, history and cultural studies"-- 
Of course, there are huge, rather difficult conversations around our responsibilities as consumers of fashion. The library has many books on becoming  "conscious" in our buying choices, as well as do-it-yourself solutions.
Overdressed : the shockingly high cost of cheap fashion: "We buy ten-dollar shoes from Target that disintegrate within a month and make weekly pilgrimages to Forever 21 and H&M. Elizabeth Cline argues that this rapid cycle of consumption isn't just erasing our sense of style and causing massive harm to the environment and human rights-it's also bad for our souls. Cline documents her own transformation from fast-fashion addict to conscientious shopper. She takes a long look at her overstuffed closet, resoles her cheap imported boots, travels to the world's only living-wage garment factory, and seeks out cutting-edge local and sustainable fashion, all on her journey to find antidotes to out-of-control shopping. Cline looks at the impact here and abroad of America's drastic increase in inexpensive clothing imports, visiting cheap-chic factories in Bangladesh and China and exploring the problems caused by all those castoffs we donate to the Salvation Army. She also shows how consumers can vote with their dollars to grow the sustainable clothing industry, reign in the conventional apparel market and wear their clothes with pride."  Also available as an ebook.
Wear No Evil how to change the world with your wardrobe
Wear No Evil : how to change the World with your Wardrobe: "Have you ever wondered, "How can I inherently do good while looking good?" Wear No Evil has the answer, and is the timely handbook for navigating both fashion and ethics. It is the style guide with sustainability built in that we've all been waiting for. As a consumer, you regain your power with every purchase to support the causes and conditions you already advocate in other areas of your life (such as local or organic food), while upholding your sense of self through the stylish pieces you use to create your wardrobe."
Magnifeco : your head-to-toe guide to ethical fashion and non-toxic beauty: "The fashion industry's reputation for social responsibility is in tatters--grim stories of environmental damage, toxic chemicals, and human rights abuses abound. Author Kate Black highlights a multitude of ways consumers can make better choices and introduces the brands and designers leading the way so you can shop more ethically, feel better about what you wear, and be - magnifeco!"
Refashioned : cutting-edge clothing from upcycled materials.  "The area of recycling and upcycling is a rich and growing source of innovative design in the fashion and accessories industries. In a fast-fashion world of throw-away clothing, it is the ultimate expression of the slow-fashion movement, with each piece individually conceived and crafted from scratch, using different materials each time. ReFashioned features 46 international designers who work with recycled materials and discarded garments, reinvigorating them with new life and value. The result is beautiful and desirable clothing and accessories that also make an important statement to the fashion world about its wasteful and exploitative practices."
DIY wardrobe makeovers
DIY wardrobe makeovers : alter, refresh & refashion your clothes : step-by-step sewing tutorials: "Unlock your closet's potential with simple wardrobe fixes and refashions to express your style. These basic alterations and step-by-step restyling tutorials will help you fit and reassemble garments into newfound faves. No sloppy shortcuts here--learn how to alter sweaters, pants, and everything in your wardrobe for a more flattering fit."
Born again vintage
Born-again vintage : 25 ways to deconstruct, reinvent + recycle your wardrobe: "Fashion designer Bridgett Artise believes in second chances--a philosophy that extends all the way to her clothing line, B. Artise Originals. Fashion gave her a second chance at happiness and success, and, in turn, she gives vintage garments that have lost their luster another chance at being fashionable. Mixing contemporary clothing with the best elements of a vintage piece--like the collar of a funky fifties housedress or the pockets of a seventies-style jacket--and piecing them back together in a whole new way, she creates one-of-a-kind garments that are both trend setting and timeless."


A final note: CBC's Marketplace aired  the episode, "Clothing Waste: Fashion's Dirty Secret" in January of this year. The program offers insight into the controversies surrounding clothes recycling programs.